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Self Preservation vs. Discrimination

Updated: May 22, 2021

Self-preservation (Wikipedia) is a behavior or set of behaviors that ensures the survival of an organism. It is universal among all living organisms. Pain and fear are integral parts of this mechanism.

Pain motivates the individual to withdraw from damaging situations, to protect a damaged body part while it heals, and to avoid similar experiences in the future.


Most pain resolves promptly once the painful stimulus is removed and the body has healed, but sometimes pain persists despite removal of the stimulus and apparent healing of the body; and sometimes pain arises in the absence of any detectable stimulus, damage or disease.


Fear causes the organism to seek safety and may cause a release of adrenaline, which has the effect of increased strength and heightened senses such as hearing, smell, and sight. Self-preservation may also be interpreted figuratively, in regard to the coping mechanisms one needs to prevent emotional trauma from distorting the mind.


Even the most simple of living organisms (for example, the single-celled bacteria) are typically under intense selective pressure to evolve a response that would help avoid a damaging environment, if such an environment exists. Organisms also evolve while adapting - even thriving - in a benign environment (for example, a marine sponge modifies its structure in response to current changes, in order to better absorb and process nutrients).


Self-preservation is therefore an almost universal hallmark of life. However, when introduced to a novel threat, many species will have a self-preservation response either too specialized, or not specialized enough, to cope with that particular threat.


An example is the dodo, which evolved in the absence of natural predators and hence lacked an appropriate, general self-preservation response to heavy predation by humans and rats, showing no fear of them.


Self-preservation is essentially the process of an organism preventing itself from being harmed or killed and is considered a basic instinct in most organisms. Most call it a "survival instinct".


Self-preservation is thought to be tied to an organism's reproductive fitness and can be more or less present according to perceived reproduction potential. If perceived reproductive potential is low enough, self-destructive behavior (i.e., the opposite) is not uncommon in social species. Self-preservation is also thought by some to be the basis of rational and logical thought and behavior.


Behavioral Psychology And More Theories About Shame & Guilt (positive psychology)


Early conceptualizations of shame and guilt claimed that shame was a public experience (caused by the reactions of others) while guilt was a private experience (caused by internal conflict about morality) (Ausubel, 1955).


This conceptualization is not often promoted by modern thinkers, however, as research shows that both shame and guilt are felt publicly and privately at similar rates (Tangney et al., 1996).


In fact, the framework set forth by Lewis (1971) is somewhat in conflict with the idea of shame as public and guilt as private, as Lewis claims that shame is directed inwardly at the self, while guilt is directed outwardly at one’s behaviors or actions.

Some conceptions of shame and guilt consider them to be “self-blaming” emotions, and claim that emotions like this “are crucial for the development and maintenance of interpersonal relationships because they act as important social regulators by encouraging a balance between the individual’s urges and the rights and needs of others” (Bastin et al., 2016).


This is an important point to make, as it underscores the value of feeling shameful and guilty. In cases where a real wrong has been committed, feelings of shame and guilt are the first step towards repairing the damage one has done.

Some modern commentators have argued that there are two types of guilt: “maladaptive, neurotic guilt” and “adaptive, pro-social guilt” (Tignor & Colvin, 2017). These researchers argue that the type of guilt being studied depends on the measure being used and that future research needs to distinguish these two types of guilt.


Specifically, the researchers isolated guilt into “checklist guilt”, which is guilt measured by asking participants about the guilt they have experienced in the past, and “scenario guilt”, which is guilt measured by asking participants about the hypothetical guilt they might experience in future scenarios.


This distinction may also explain why shame is generally agreed to be maladaptive, while guilt has not been clearly established as adaptive or maladaptive. Following the logic of this research (which needs further study by the authors’ own admission), adaptive guilt is guilt focused on doing the right thing in the future, whereas maladaptive guilt is guilt focused on the past.


Ultimately, shame and guilt are both social emotions which are meant to keep people from acting in pure self-interest. As we will see, though, shame is a generally maladaptive emotion, while guilt is generally an adaptive emotion. This distinction is exhibited in both the internal and external expressions of the emotions.


Discrimination (Wikipedia) - is the act of making unjustified distinctions between human beings based on the groups, classes, or other categories to which they are perceived to belong. People may be discriminated on the basis of race, gender, age, or sexual orientation, as well as other categories.


Discrimination especially occurs when individuals or groups are unfairly treated in a way which is worse than other people are treated, on the basis of their actual or perceived membership in certain groups or social categories. It involves restricting members of one group from opportunities or privileges that are available to members of another group.


Discriminatory traditions, policies, ideas, practices and laws exist in many countries and institutions in all parts of the world, including territories where discrimination is generally looked down upon. In some places, attempts such as quotas have been used to benefit those who are believed to be current or past victims of discrimination. These attempts have often been met with controversy, and have sometimes been called reverse discrimination.




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